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A NICU Reunion
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Dr. Nneka Chukwu, director of maternal child health at Emanuel Medical Center, holds one of the NICU’s graduates (Photo courtesy of EMC).

Ashley Wolf of Hilmar was pregnant with twins when she got into a car accident on Halloween last year. The accident saw her blood pressure rise and consequently led to her giving birth prematurely. Wolf’s twin boys, Dawson and Granger, spent almost three weeks in the neonatal intensive care unit at Emanuel Medical Center. Nine months later, the thriving twin boys and their mother were just one of the families that returned to Emanuel on Thursday — this time in good health — to say thanks to the doctors and nurses who made a difference in a critical time in their lives.

A circus party in one of the conference areas at Emanuel Medical Center welcomed the returning families on Thursday for the hospital’s first-ever NICU Reunion event.

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Emanuel Medical Center held its first-ever NICU Reunion event on Thursday (KRISTINA HACKER/The Journal).

“We were looking for ways to enhance our presence in the community. We’re not just a hospital where they go to get care. We are part of the community. Some of my team members were born here. They’ve had their babies here. We are an integral part of the community,” said Dr. Nneka Chukwu, director of maternal child health at Emanuel Medical Center. “We’re here for you. We’re thankful that you chose us for the care and we hope you continue to choose us. We are happy to celebrate your little ones, the milestones that are completed, going from little peanuts in the NICU to now running around. It’s just a wonderful sight to behold.”

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Hilmar twins Dawson and Granger Wolf spent almost three weeks in the NICU in 2022 and are now healthy and thriving (Photo courtesy of EMC).

The reunion was definitely a celebration, complete with a clown creating balloon animals, cotton candy and games.

“Hosting a NICU reunion is an opportunity for families to come back and celebrate the tremendous achievements they have made in their journey and their beautiful children. This event is really valuable for our Emanuel team also because it allows them to celebrate the miracle of these children that was facilitated by their passion, hard work and commitment,” said Dr. Murali Naidu, Emanuel Medical Center CEO.

One of the NICU “graduates” running around was 2-year-old Emiliano. Although he only spent five days in the NICU after his birth in September 2021, the experience made an impact on him and his family. His mother, Jessica Buenrostro, said that when she went into labor early, it was a very scary experience.

“I felt like I didn’t know if I did anything wrong in my pregnancy. Although I took care of myself, it was unexpected. All the nurses were very helpful. The doctors were very caring and compassionate and it made me feel a little bit more at ease,” she said.

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Two-year-old Emiliano Buenrostro enjoys the circus-themed party at the NICU reunion (Photo courtesy of EMC).

Dr. Chukwu said that for many families, having a baby in the NICU is a very dark moment.

“It’s very difficult. You feel like you’re leaving a part of you behind. And so we become a part of them by saying, ‘yes, we’re going to be here to take care of your precious little ones…Some stay with us for a month, sometimes two months. That’s a long time so they become a family. This is like a family reunion,” she said.